Psalm 22 and Psalm 69 are two of the psalms which Jesus himself quotes from the cross. Most of us know that many of the most familiar lines of the passion are actually Jesus quoting from the daily prayer book of the Jews, which we call the Book of Psalms. “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” is a quotation of Psalm 22:1. “They divide my clothing among themselves and for my clothing they cast lots” is from Psalm 22:18. “My throat is parched” and “they gave me vinegar to drink” comes from Psalm 69:3 and 21.
These Psalms give us a different perspective on the passion of Christ. I like to call it the passion from the “inside.” If the “outside” of redemption is the incarnation and Christ’s public ministry, the “inside” of redemption is the suffering of Christ on the cross. Only in the Psalms do we find captured the inner thoughts and feelings of Jesus which he draws our attention to as he hangs upon the cross.
This is the story of the gospel from the first person. This is not historians like St. Luke sharing redemptive history in the third person—this is Jesus himself crying out in the first person. I would be so bold as to say that we cannot fully walk through the pain of this day by reading the 3rd person account of what happened on that momentous day which we call Good Friday. We should also read, pray, and sing the Psalms which give us the passion in the first person.
Psalm 69 is particularly powerful. Read through the first 21 verses from the perspective of Jesus on the cross. When you get to verse 22 the Psalm changes tone for the next seven verses as the Psalmist issues a deserved curse upon the wicked who have so afflicted him without cause. When Jesus gets to this point in the Psalm something new is inserted which changes the history of the world. At the point on the cross when we expect Jesus to follow the Psalm into announcement judgement upon this world he instead says, “Father, forgive them, for they know now what they do.” The imprecation is absorbed by the power of forgiveness and grace.
This is the amazing good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ’s word of forgiveness becomes a redemptive insertion into the passion narrative of God’s suffering servant. We are surprised by God’s grace. The judgement on the wicked is “interrupted” with the even more certain word of God’s forgiveness. No one has ever seen love like this before. No one has ever heard words like this before. But, God knows that we will never learn to hate our sins enough to leave them. But, if we can be loved enough, and truly understand the depth of His sacrifice, then we can go and sin no more.
The gospel is not “God was so angry with the world, that he sent His one and only Son…” but, “for God so loved the world.” It should be translated, “This is how God loved the world.” God’s love is demonstrated and lived out on a cross on Golgatha. It is not the sentimentalized love of the cinema and romance novels. It is the covenantal love which cost Him everything. It is here that we meet true love face to face and go away transformed. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Thanks be to God.